NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Somerset county tournament action was in full swing earlier today as the sixth seeded North Plainfield High School boys soccer team took their home field against 11th seeded Immaculata in the tournament’s second round.
The Canucks (9-1) already displayed their fighting spirit earlier in the week when they notched a comeback overtime win against conference rival South Hunterdon, but after today’s outcome, it’d be more than difficult to find any faults in North Plainfield’s mental fortitude.
North Plainfield overcame an early deficit, injuries and more to keep pick up a 2-1 overtime win over Immaculata, and a spot in the SCT’s third round.
“Our job as a team is to press and get the other team out of their comfort zone, which we did, and impose our will on them,” North Plainfield coach Chuck Henriques said after the game. “That's what we needed to do, and that's why we won the game.”
Although scoring opportunities went back and forth, the Canucks seemed to be controlling the flow of the game early on. That flow changed swiftly towards the midpoint of the first half though, when Immaculata’s Gurteg Singh headed in the first goal of the game off a free kick from James Cummins.
Things got worse for the Canucks just about five minutes later, when their starting goalkeeper Edgar Castaneda collided hard with defender Erik Chavez on a save attempt. The goal didn’t go in, but both players left the field with serious looking injuries.
The Canucks kept fighting though, generating four corners in the first 15 minutes of the second half. North Plainfield’s efforts were rewarded via a game-tying goal from Kenny Navas, courtesy a pass from Jason Caranza.
The game seemed destined for overtime from that goal onwards, but the Canucks came just inches from closing the show in regulation with about two minutes left.
Senior forward Ronaldo Garcia sent in a shot that partially went over the goal line before it was stopped by Immaculata keeper Mark Diana, and the Canucks celebrated as the referee originally ruled it a goal. A linesman overturned it after a short discussion and the game went on to extra minutes, much to the chagrin of the fans in attendance. The players didn’t seem to let that short rollercoaster of emotions get the best of them though.
“We work really hard, so we can't let something like that bring us down,” senior midfielder Kevin Tabares said after the game. “We just had to go harder and harder and play to our ability.”
Tabares proved that just five minutes into the overtime, when he received a cross from Caranza and buried in the game-winning goal.
“We were attacking a lot and I was just being patient on the wing and waiting for it to come,” Tabares said. “It came to me and I was wide open, and I took the shot. It was the game winner so I'm really happy.”
After the game, Henriques expressed concern over the possible loss of Chavez, who he called the captain of the defense, but said he trusts the abilities of his second goalkeeper Danny Gonzalez, who filled in for the rest of the match.
The coach also said his team should grow from this experience.
“For 43 minutes we were dominant,” he said. “What I'm trying to get to them, is that they should play like that all the time.”
The Canucks will next take on Rutgers Prep at a Monday home match